Alain Menu led the way as the European leg of the World Touring Car Championship got underway, with the Chevrolet driver topping the times during a 30 minute test session at the Spanish venue.

The Swiss star left it late in the session to secure his place at the head of the timesheets, posting a best lap of 1min 44.440secs in the final minutes to knock BMW Team Germany ace Augusto Farfus from top spot.

Farfus was left in second place, 0.126secs behind Menu, while Rob Huff completed a good start to the weekend for the Chevrolet crew as he ended up third quickest. Andy Priaulx, Nicola Larini and Gabriele Tarquini rounded out the top six - the latter leading the challenge of SEAT's diesel brigade at a circuit where the team expects competition to be tougher than in the opening rounds of the year in Brazil and Mexico.

The test marked the official debut on a race weekend of the N.Technology Honda Accord, with the Italian squad having elected to miss the flyaway races to work on developing the JAS Motorsport built machine.

James Thompson ended the session with the eighth quickest time and was just six-tenths of a second off the pace.

"I have been looking forward to Valencia for a long time now," the Briton said. "Getting a feel for the car over the last few weeks has been great but it's obviously not the same as racing.

"Today was a good test for us. We changed something on the car halfway through the session and improved our time despite yellow flags being waved so it's promising. I can't wait for tomorrow now to see how we get on."

Championship leader Rickard Rydell ended up with the twelfth fastest time while the session also marked the first appearance of the Russian Bears Motorsport Ladas, with Jaap van Lagen posting the 20th fastest time overall which was good enough for fourth amongst the Independent runners.

Team-mate Viktor Shapovalov didn't set a time during the session at the wheel of the sister car which was only completed shortly before the start of the test.